Winnipeg’s Small Businesses

Big growth.

As recently as five years ago, Winnipeg’s Osborne Village, Broadway Avenue, and The Forks market were not exactly the best at catering to their local communities. But a small business boom, spearheaded by a group of young and passionate entrepreneurs and creatives, is beginning to spark big change.

In its past, Osborne’s main strip—surrounded by a dense collection of apartment buildings, old homes, and condominiums that students, artists, and professionals alike called home—did little to meet the quotidian needs of its inhabitants. Aside from the aisles of Safeway, or the Legion on a karaoke night, there were few businesses expressly designed to serve the local population. Instead, that three-block strip was trafficked largely by people visiting from out of town or more suburban areas of the city.

Helping improve the Village from a native perspective is Terik Cabildo, who recently worked with his brother, former graphic designer Chris Cabildo, to open a sister restaurant to his popular spot on South Osborne, Vera Pizzeria e Bevande. Vera serves Neapolitan-style pie with quality ingredients and little fuss. But cozied next to the Royal Canadian Legion on River, the new Super Deluxe restaurant approaches pizza and service in a more casual style than its big sister. It’s freer in its menu, leaning towards American-style toppings and away from being strictly traditional Italian. “My kitchen managers are the real experts from their experiences working at Vera, and I let them work with new ingredients and ideas,” says Chris. “We still focus on quality in what we put on pizzas.”

“I instantly fell in love with the city. The heart that it has is infectious.”

With green- and white-checkered floors, plastic laminate booths, and globe pendant lighting, the interior is inspired by Winnipeg fast-food chain Junior’s and maintains that casual dining feel. It’s a quick and affordable place to enjoy a pizza before grabbing another beer or two at the Legion next door.

But Super Deluxe isn’t the only endeavour that Vera helped inspire. Another recent Osborne Village addition, vintage shop Take Care, sprouted after owner Jillian Zdunich moved to Winnipeg in 2014 to take a job at the pizza place. “I instantly fell in love with the city,” says the Calgary-born Zdunich, who also spent some time working in Vancouver’s fashion industry. “The heart that it has is infectious.”

Zdunich quickly noticed Winnipeg’s need for a curated consignment store like ones she’d seen in cities such as Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal. So last fall, she quit her job “to focus on making the business dream a reality.” She has worked tirelessly since then, and called on friends and family for help to open her beautifully curated shop. “There’s a lot of change happening in the Village right now,” says Zdunich, “and I wanted to be part of it.” Take Care hits the mark with impeccably sourced and well-priced used clothing, a small selection of goods from local makers, and prints by Winnipeg photographers hanging on the walls.

Super Deluxe and Take Care have seen an outpouring of local support from business owners and Villagers alike, and will hopefully become staples of a neighbourhood that meets the needs of its denizens while continuing to draw crowds from around the city and out of town.

Nearby Broadway Avenue was initially designed as one of Winnipeg’s great public spaces, with Union Station on its eastern end and the legislature to the west. Over the years, however, Broadway became very business-focused: office workers would flock towards Subway and the few sad hot dog carts that populated the street over lunch hour, but the area would empty after dark. Residents of the many apartment buildings dotting the side streets were forced to look elsewhere for nightlife.

Now, though, a diverse collection of food trucks packs the street during lunch hour—and the evenings are seeing changes, too. When Fools & Horses opened its doors in the spring of 2015, the cafe set out to invigorate Broadway, bringing it back to its original conception as a pedestrian-friendly neighbourhood space.

Co-owners Lauren Kroeker-Lee, Amy Burtoluzzi, Ben Gillies, Kendra Magnus-Johnston, and James Magnus-Johnston work on balancing the diverse needs of the people who frequent Broadway Avenue. Fools serves as change in pace for the business crowd while also being a welcoming spot for local traffic, with gender-neutral washrooms and approachable coffee and menu items. The cafe also operates on a “triple bottom line”: environmental, social, and financial. As James explains, “This means striving to go waste-free,”—they’re currently at 95 per cent landfill-free—“becoming a hub for culture and conversation, and paying staff a living wage.”

Being a hub for culture and conversation means that in addition to serving coffee, sandwiches, and craft beer and wine between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., the business also organizes Fools After Hours, helping Broadway to become more than just a daytime centre. By hosting events such as art openings and community group gatherings, Fools caters to the after-five crowd and builds a network of like-minded people.

After a relatively static period in the local economy, Winnipeg is seeing new growth.

At the foot of Broadway lies The Forks, a proud historical meeting place dating back to Winnipeg’s foundation. But until recently, the market had grown lackluster, with uninspiring food options on the main floor and low-quality, high-priced touristy knick-knacks on the upper level.

Thankfully, The Forks too is undergoing transformation. The main building has been given a facelift: a fresh coat of paint, new light fixtures, and an area called The Commons, where patrons can sample a selection of wine and craft beers, including options from local breweries. And the food court at The Forks has begun to host a restaurant pop-up, which features a new Winnipeg eatery every month. The site also just announced a second location for Fools & Horses, and has commissioned a mural by Indigenous artist Stormy Angeconeb in partnership with art and culture initiative Synonym Art Consultation.

On the second floor, art collective From Here & Away just moved in. The studio will function as a community workspace and retail location, where it will run seminars, host events, and sell select items that were made in Canada. Joseph Visser founded From Here & Away first through an Instagram page and website, and then through workshops and free photography events around the city. The group is an outlet “for individual self-expression and creative growth that doesn’t rely on coolness or pre-existing skill,” he explains. Growing up, Visser felt the arts scene here lacked approachability, and he wanted a community to “encourage everyone to tap into their creative impulses.” After all, he adds, “that’s what makes a healthy person and a healthy city.”

From Here & Away’s new space is filled with mid-century furniture on loan from Shoestring Picker’s Rob Waddell (if you see something you like, you can buy it), and photography courtesy of its members. The collective has signed a short-term lease with The Forks, and is hopeful that with enough support from the community, they will be able to stay a little longer.

After a relatively static period in the local economy, Winnipeg is seeing new growth. Each of these businesses and the people behind them represent a piece of a new Winnipeg that is emerging: one set on serving and enhancing its resident community by offering accessible spaces for shopping, eating, drinking, and connecting in a way that fosters progress and collaboration.

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Post Date:

April 16, 2017